The Little Garden Club of Rye was founded in 1931, and in 1948 was granted membership in the Garden Club of America, during Mrs. Robert E. Gillie's presidency. Throughout the years. the Club's focus has been on civic beautification, conservation and historic preservation.
In the 1930's, the Club was involved with plantings and their maintenance at the Rye Library.
In 1944, the LGCR donated complete furnishings for a trained nurse's room, at the Rye Branch, Westchester County Chapter of the American Red Cross, for the care of wounded servicemen.
In the 1950's, the Club continued its service to the community by carrying out many beautification projects, one of which was landscaping at United Hospital: grading; laying a flagstone walk; planting trees; shrubs and bulbs; and arranging for major pruning. The Club did additional work at the Rye Library, concentrating on arrangements for the childrens' room and the main desk. The first national officer of the GCA from the LGCR was Mrs. Breck McAllister, who, in 1959, became Vice Chairman for National Parks. Mrs. Frank Donahue was national Treasurer for several terms and later served as President of the Garden Club of America. Today LGCR has an annual Kay Donahue Award for the member who best exemplifies Mrs. Donahue's beloved spirit.
In the 1960's, the LGCR made donations to the Restoration Fund of the Rye Historical Society for trees to be planted along Purchase Street. In 1968, the stone watering trough which originally stood by the police booth on the Boston Post Road was resurrected from the dump at Disbrow Park and placed at the Rockridge traffic triangle, and filled with seasonal flowers. In the early 1990's, roses and other perennials were added. LGCR members continue to maintain the plantings. In September 2004, LGCR member, Mrs. Robert Horne, implemented a new, club-approved landscape plan which provides color both winter and summer.
In the early 1970's, the Robert Moses Bridge Project from Oyster Bay to Rye was proposed under New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller's administration. Its effect upon Rye would have been devastating. LGCR Presidents, Mrs. Frank Donahue and Mrs. Carl Berntsen, along with other members, took an active role in helping to defeat this project by writing letters and speaking out against it. Another project that the LGCR, with President Mrs. Harry E. Sohmer, Jr., undertook was the beautification of the railroad station, and the land surrounding it, to celebrate the United States Bicentennial in 1976. This was a long-range project for planting the station area, following a master plan drawn up by Mrs. Albert Richardson. LGCR President Mrs. Robert Mallory, in collaboration with Mrs. Bayard Read of the Rye Garden Club, was instrumental in helping to save the forty-four acre Parson's Tract, which later became the Rye Nature Center where the LGCR still maintains a native wildflower garden for its beauty and for educational purposes.
Some of the LCGR's most recent civic projects include helping to plant and install an educational herb garden at the historic Knapp House funded by a generous bequest from the estate of Kay Donahue. In April 1992, the Club had its first Daffodil Show at The Osborn, chaired by Mrs. John McCullock and Mrs. Carl Berntsen. This event has continued to be held over many years to the delight of the residents there. Both the flower boxes and the garden at the Rye Post Office also are maintained by the Little Garden Club of Rye.
The LGCR has had many flower shows open to the public as well as in-house flower shows for LGCR members only. The first show was held in May 1961 followed by other shows held in 1963, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 2001, and 2006. The Club always has had many talented members whom have had their share in winning awards in both artistic flower arrangements and horticulture. Field trips have been numerous over the years with short trips to visit nearby gardens at the New York Botanical Garden, Wave Hill, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Stamford,CT, and the Philadelphia Flower Show. More extensive trips were made to Washington, DC,, Boston MA, Natchez, MS, and gardens in England and Italy.
The LGCR has a long history of fund-raising to support its civic activities. For many years Christmas sales were held annually at Christ's Church. Decorated wreaths, table arrangements, handmade gifts and the Club's most popular, fund-raising item. Miniature Package Christmas Trees, made with live greens decorated with lights and beautifully wrapped packages. Other fundraising activities included luncheons and silent auctions at the Apawamis Club, Christmas house tours, Christmas coffees and, in 2002, the Little Garden Club of Rye "Deck the Halls" tour of Rye's historic homes.
Creativity and Community are the hallmarks of the Little Garden Club of Rye. Members enjoy each other's company, serve the community generously, and are all proud to share the work of the GCA.